What would it take for LaMarcus Aldridge to win MVP in 2015?


“A miracle.”

Now that we’ve gotten the knee-jerk response out of the way, let’s examine this a little more closely. Last season, LaMarcus Aldridge came the closest he has ever come to true MVP consideration, standing at fifth in the KIA “Race to the MVP” rankings and 10th in the media voting by season’s end. It was the first year in his eight-season career that he received votes for the award.

Historically, the MVP award is given to a player that leads his team to success in the regular season. You will almost never see a player win the award if his team struggles, so it stands to reason that the Portland Trail Blazers need to put on one hell of a show for Aldridge to receive more attention than he did last year. The last player to win MVP without his team even winning its division was Michael Jordan in the 1988 season. That was almost 30 years ago.

In order for Aldridge to be considered against players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the Trail Blazers have to win the Northwest Division, and he needs to lead them. He posted career high statistics in points (23.2) and rebounds (11.1) per game last season, but those statistics are probably not eye-popping enough to draw votes regardless of how well the Trail Blazers do. For a point of reference, MVP statistics and standings of the past decade shake out as follows.

2014: Kevin Durant
32.0 PTS, 7.4 TRB, 5.5 AST
Oklahoma City Thunder (59-23): 1st in division, 2nd in conference, 2nd in league

2013: LeBron James
26.8 PTS, 8.0 TRB, 7.3 AST
Miami Heat (66-16): 1st in division, 1st in conference, 1st in league

2012: LeBron James
27.1 PTS, 7.9 TRB, 6.2 AST
Miami Heat (46-20): 1st in division, 2nd in conference, 4th in league

2011: Derrick Rose
25.0 PTS, 4.1 TRB, 7.7 AST
Chicago Bulls (62-20): 1st in division, 1st in conference, 1st in league

2010: LeBron James
29.7 PTS, 7.3 TRB, 8.6 AST
Cleveland Cavalier (61-21): 1st in division, 1st in conference, 1st in league

2009: LeBron James
28.4 PTS, 7.6 TRB, 7.2 AST
Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16): 1st in division, 1st in conference, 1st in league

2008: Kobe Bryant
28.3 PTS, 6.3 TRB, 5.4 AST
Los Angeles Lakers (57-25): 1st in division, 1st in conference, 3rd in league

2007: Dirk Nowitzki
24.6 PTS, 8.9 TRB, 3.4 AST
Dallas Mavericks (67-15): 1st in division, 1st in conference, 1st in league

2006: Steve Nash
18.8 PTS, 4.2 TRB, 10.5 AST
Phoenix Suns (54-28): 1st in division, 3rd in conference, 4th in league

2005: Steve Nash
15.5 PTS, 3.3 TRB, 11.5 AST
Phoenix Suns (62-20): 1st in division, 1st in conference, 1st in league

Aldridge and the Trail Blazers do not necessarily need to be the best of the best in all regards, but it would certainly help. Besides Portland making strides with Aldridge’s guidance, several things need to happen that are out of their control. We cannot pretend that the upper echelon of the NBA isn’t littered with talent on-par with, or better than, Aldridge’s. The following players finished ahead of him in the 2013-14 voting:

Durant, James, Blake Griffin, Joakim Noah, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Al Jefferson, and Paul George.

These players need to either perform worse than they did last season, have their team finish lower than it did last season, or likely a mixture of both. Unless George is a better player on one leg than two, he is sadly out of the running, so we can already see a small shift in the landscape. Without assuming too much, there are many other possibilities within the realm of reason that could allow Aldridge to gain ground in the MVP voting.

Aug 8, 2014; Akron, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James during the LeBron James Family Foundation Reunion and Rally at InfoCision Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Both James and Noah could be susceptible to Titanic syndrome. The Cavaliers and the Bulls have both undergone drastic changes in free agency to make them “too big to fail” in the public eye. If either team runs into chemistry issues resulting in underperformance of the team as a whole in the regular season, we could see the MVP award go to the next best player on a team with a better record (a la Rose in 2011, when James’ Heat took a while to get the ball rolling).

Griffin and Paul, while in a similar boat, share a concerning history of injury with Curry. The most likely downfall for any of them would be a health issue that sidelines them for a noteworthy length of time. The reason Paul finished seventh in last year’s voting, and not third, was because he missed 18 consecutive games in January and February that hurt his overall ranking. Any reoccurrence, while unlikely, would not be unprecedented over the course of an 82 game season.

So while many things external to the Trail Blazers would have to fall into place, it is not impossible that they would. Even Durant, the reigning MVP, could fall behind Aldridge if the Trail Blazers do indeed overtake the Thunder in the Northwest division. As evidenced by 2013-14, a lot can happen in an NBA season. Teams collapse (Pacers), All-Stars are injured (Lakers), chemistry is killed (Pistons), and new stars are born (Suns). A favorable alignment of maladies and advancements could bring Aldridge to the forefront of MVP discussion.

Especially if paired with aforementioned improvements on Aldridge’s end. A guy that gives you 23 and 11 as he enters the prime of his career may not be far from putting up 26 and 12—better numbers than Nowitzki comparably won with in 2007. Even with any semblance of improvement, Aldridge is still on the outside of an outside shot, but he’s been known to make those when no one expects it. If the Trail Blazers make a legitimate push for dominance in the West, Aldridge will feature prominently in the 2015 MVP discussion.

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